Does a Last Will & Testament Need to Be Notarized in California?

By Teo Spengler

Because a last will and testament will not go into effect until the maker dies, many jurisdictions require that a notary public verify the signature. California is not among them. The state probate code sets forth the various forms of wills valid in California, and while some mandate witnesses, none require a notarized signature.

Prepared Will

If you are 18 years old, you are old enough to sign a last will and testament in California. A common way to establish a will is to visit an attorney. The attorney obtains all needed information from you, including a list of your assets and your beneficiaries, and prepares a will incorporating them. Alternatively, a California resident can sit down and type out her own last testament. Whether you or your lawyer drafts your will, two people must witness your signature. A notary is not required.

Statutory Will

California statutes contain a form will termed a "statutory will." The statutory will contains the bare outline of a last will and testament with spaces left blank to flesh out personal information. A person wishing to use the statutory form fills in personal information, including identification, assets and bequests. Like a prepared will, a statutory will requires two witnesses. The codes do not require that any of the signatures be notarized.

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Handwritten Will

The probate code also authorizes a California resident to write out a will in longhand. A handwritten will, termed a holographic will, must be written, dated and signed by the maker. Although witnesses may sign a holographic will, none are required, nor must the signatures be notarized. A holographic will may be valid even if not dated as long as no ambiguity arises from the lack of date.

International Will

A fourth type of will authorized in California is an "international will," useful to those with property in other states or foreign countries. By executing a will under the International Wills Act, a person can make a will in California that will be accepted as valid in most other states and countries. Anyone can make a valid international will, no matter his nationality or residence, as long as he follows the rules set out in the probate code -- which are numerous. An international will must be signed by the maker in the presence of two witnesses plus a person authorized to act in connection with international wills, defined by the statute to include California attorneys. The authorized person must sign a certificate similar to a notary form -- the exact language of the certificate is set out in the statute -- attesting to the will signing.

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Legal Will Requirements in California


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Is a Handwritten Will Legal in Washington State?

In Washington State, a handwritten will is legal but all of the requirements under state law must be met.

Does a Power of Attorney Require Notarization?

Notarizing a legal document, such as a power of attorney, involves using the services of a notary public to authenticate the identity of the person signing the document and to witness the document being signed. The purpose of notarizing a legal document is to deter fraud and assure others the signature on the document is genuine. Each state has its own laws regarding a power of attorney; whether a power of attorney must be notarized depends on the state where the power of attorney is signed and the purpose of the power of attorney.

California Law on Wills

By establishing a will, you can avoid administration of your estate under California intestate succession laws. However, merely writing a will is not sufficient for the state to recognize your wishes -- your will must comply with the guidelines defined by the California Probate Code for the state to acknowledge its validity. While a will that overlooks only one requirement may still uphold in court, you risk the court putting aside your entire will if you fail to comply with these guidelines.

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